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Welsh and Scottish unions seek clarity on future farm policy

Farm leaders in Wales and Scotland are seeking early meetings with ministers responsible for agriculture after the 6 May elections.

Labour remains in power in Wales after winning a working Senedd majority, but is one seat short of an overall majority. In Scotland, the Scottish National Party (SNP) won 64 seats – one more than at the last election, but also one short of a majority.

The election results will affect the future direction of farming in both countries, as legislative jurisdiction over agriculture, food, and rural development is devolved.

See also: Welsh farmers reveal crippling costs of new NVZ rules

The elections have come at an important time for Welsh and Scottish agriculture, with both countries poised to design their own support policies for the sector. 

Ahead of the election, Welsh Labour said it would stand by its decision to introduce a whole-territory nitrate vulnerable zone (NVZ).

It also committed to a support system that only pays farmers for practices that deliver additional environmental outcomes, and pledged to make CCTV mandatory in all slaughterhouses.

NVZ legal challenge

Although NFU Cymru has locked horns with the Labour-led administration over the NVZ designation by instigating a legal challenge, its president, John Davies, said the union was “very much looking forward to working with our politicians as we promote and represent the interests of Wales’ farmers”.

“With the makeup of the Welsh Parliament confirmed, we now await the formation of the next Welsh government,” he said.

“NFU Cymru will be monitoring developments over the coming days and will, of course, be seeking early meetings with all the relevant portfolio holders to take forward the interests of Wales’ farmers.”

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) had warned that it would hold political parties to account on their manifesto commitments to farming.

FUW president Glyn Roberts said he had written to first minister Mark Drakeford and the opposition leaders, highlighting the union’s 2021 Senedd election manifesto and issues it believed should be a priority over the next five years.

All eyes will be on whether Lesley Griffiths will keep the farming brief – she was re-elected to her Wrexham seat with a majority of 8,452 votes.

Covid recovery

In Scotland, the president of NFU Scotland (NFUS) is also seeking early answers on the future direction of agricultural policy from newly elected MSPs.

It will press the new government to ramp up food processing capacity and to review legislation around the protection of livestock from dogs.

NFUS president Martin Kennedy acknowledged that the government faced major tasks as the nation recovers from the pandemic, but said farmers and crofters had to be at the heart of the recovery.

“Our new parliament must quickly show leadership in adopting policies that will set the future direction for Scottish agriculture,” he said.

Ben Macpherson, who had held the post of minister for rural affairs and the natural environment since December 2020, returns to Holyrood after winning the Edinburgh Northern and Leith seat with 47.9% of the votes.

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